The Detroit Lions added a lot of promising picks during the NFL Draft. What are your expectations for this junior class?
Rookie minicamp is one of the first tastes of football after-NFL DraftAnd the Detroit Lions have a lot of rookies to look forward to seeing.
Early observations are exciting, and with excitement comes anticipation. From first-round talent to end-of-the-day third draft picks, expectations will vary wildly. Some will be seen as players of immediate impact. Others will be seen as cutting depth and spin. Some may have difficulty configuring the menu.
Depending on how you view Lions or football in general, you may be tempering or inflating your expectations. Does the player put up a good little camp that the journalists are interested in? It may suddenly jump in fancy ratings or the depth chart of your mind. We try not to exaggerate the month of May – it’s a long season after all – but it’s all too easy to talk about a new football season.
Today’s question is:
What are your expectations regarding Detroit Lionsrookies?
My answer: I will divide it according to probability.
RB Jhimir Gibbs: Jeremy Raisman set the bar for Gibbs’ perfect home run “Which Detroit Lions rookie will make the biggest first-year impact?” An article a few weeks ago. In it, Jeremy mentions that Gibbs is an asset as a receiver, likely to hit 80 receptions like Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara in his rookie seasons. I think those two names are good comparisons for Gibbs. McCaffrey had 435 rushing and 651 yards in his rookie season, while Kamara had 728 rushing and 826 receiving. Kamara’s rookie season — winning the Rookie of the Year title and an All-Pro nod — should be Gibbs’ dream scenario, but I think a season A 1,000-yard total like McCaffrey’s is pretty reasonable. I expect David Montgomery and Gibbs to replicate what Mark Ingram and Kamara did in New Orleans.
LB Jack Campbell: Campbell could potentially be the Lions’ midfielder of the future, but that may not come in 2023. With Alex Anzalone back in the fold, I expect Campbell to start alongside him in multiplayer groups, acting as Anzalone’s understudy and learning from him as a veteran captain. There is a chance Campbell could take over Anzalone’s full-back spot by the end of the season, although the role should not be rushed. Given the potential rotation with Malcolm Rodriguez and Derek Barnes, I’d expect Campbell to hover around 600 takes, give or take a hundred.
TE Sam Laporta: The LaPorta has to be the indisputable TE1. The bigger question is what the role of TE1 will entail. After trading away TJ Hockenson, the Lions had limited but effective production from their tight ends. I expect production to increase, but I still think tight ends will be more of a complement to offense. The LaPorta has a high ceiling, but the novice learning curve for tight ends is steep. George Keitel had 515 yards in his rookie season, and I think about 500 yards is a fair prediction. Give me some big plays that highlight his remarkable ability to mismatch.
DB Bryan Branch: While I’m very excited about Brunch, I think 2023 could be a quieter year for it. The reason is easy: the secondary is heavily overhauled. Put Branch into the 2022 Lions Championship, and he’s a day one starter. However, the Lions added CJ Gardner-Johnson, a similar safety/nickel hybrid, so preventing a hit, Branch wouldn’t start on him. Branch could see action as a third safety if Gardner-Johnson was in the slot. Branch is a good player and the Lions will find a role for themselves, even if it is limited at first. I’d be happy with 400 shots – any objection would be the icing on the cake.
QB Hendon Hooker: A rebound is the expectation of Hooker, who may end up redshirting his rookie season. If Hooker has been inactive for the entire season, that’s by no means a disappointment: that’s only plausible. However, if Hooker is able to nurse himself back to health sometime this season, it’s likely he still won’t see the field preventing injury to Jared Goff. The only instance where he could see the field, as mentioned by Ryan Mathews, is during the Week 18 game against the Minnesota Vikings. If the Lions clinched the playoffs before Week 18 and Hooker was ready to play, it would make sense to give him the start against the Vikings in a nonsensical game. This is my dream scenario for 2023.
DT Broderick Martin: Martin should compete with Isaiah Buggs for the starting nose tackle role, turning Alim McNeill into a more three-tech role where he excelled last season. Given how well Buggs has reduced the stretch in 2023, the starting role will not be given to Martin. Depending on how this fight goes, I still expect to see a turnover, similar to how Lions Buggs (752 snaps) and Benito Jones (309 snaps) played. Give me 400 snaps as a prediction for Martin – as a ring on the nose, even one sack of Martin would be a win.
OL Colby Sorsdal: In a perfect world, the Lions’ offensive line would be healthy. However, even if a forward or an inside lineman gets damaged, the Lions have alternative options before Sorsdal. Graham Glasgow can play guard or center, while Matt Nelson plays the reserve top tackle role. Sorsdal has always been a future test pick, so if he sees the field in 2023, that means he’s really impressed in camp or the starters and reserves are struggling or injured.
W.R. Antoine Green: As a seventh-round pick, there are almost no expectations for Green — making the roster itself is not a given. However, Green is benefiting from a roster that lacks many outside receiving options, especially in the wake of Jameson Williams’ suspension. Although Green has a leg up on unrecorded agents like Chase Cota and Keytaon Thompson due to his draft status, a good training camp from another player could cost Green his spot on the roster. I expect Green to be the 53-man roster, but anything can happen in the coming months.
For the casual starters, I won’t get too deep into their potential – see Erik Schlitt’s UDFA breakdown article or view Jeremy and Erik’s 53-man roster for more info – but they all face an uphill battle to make the roster, and therefore no expectations. I have high hopes for bringing back Mohamed Ibrahim and Salama Brandon Joseph, but just making the roster would be a huge victory.
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